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Sabathia shows promising signs after lengthy layoff

Yankees starter took the loss, but struck out eight and did not issue a walk

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi was surprised when he realized just how few starts left-hander CC Sabathia made in 2014.

The veteran lefty scuffled through eight starts and was placed on the disabled list shortly after his outing on May 10 at Milwaukee. It would turn out to be his final outing of the year; the Yankees learned in July that Sabathia would need season-ending arthroscopic knee surgery.

Sabathia returned to the mound in a Major League game for the first time in 11 months Thursday, and surrendered five runs (four earned) on eight hits in the Yankees' 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays. Toronto tagged Sabathia for four runs in the second inning with some well-placed hits, but he settled down to complete 5 2/3 innings.

"I'm not taking anything away from the Blue Jays," Girardi said. "But I thought he threw the ball a lot better than what it looks like."

Toronto loaded the bases in the second on three singles, including one that bounced off Sabathia's glove. Kevin Pillar took advantage with an RBI single to left field, followed by a pair of run-scoring groundouts. Jose Reyes capped off the four-run inning with a run-scoring single into left field.

Sabathia began to settle in after that inning, striking out six of seven Blue Jays through one stretch. He finished with eight strikeouts and did not issue a walk. He cruised along until a broken-bat single in the fifth by Danny Valencia gave Toronto its fifth run, aided by an error from Carlos Beltran.

"Yeah, I mean, a bad inning got away from us," Sabathia said. "I wish I could have stopped the bleeding right there. I had the double-play ball. I just put my glove on it. It was one of those things where we couldn't stop the bleeding in the second inning."

This outing was encouraging for Sabathia and for the Yankees, who are counting on him to return as a force near the top of their rotation. He looked much better Thursday than he did during Spring Training, where he was knocked around for 14 hits -- including three home runs -- through 10 innings.

"It's something to build on," Sabathia said. "No walks. Not a lot of good contact. I think I threw the ball pretty good, it was just bad luck."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
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